Breaking Ground With iFarm: Creative Arrangements Help Small Farmers Get Their Start

Carrie Sendak of Mama Tee's Farmstead and CSA in Willamina
Carrie Sendak of Mama Tee’s Farmstead and CSA in Willamina

Bright pastures, free-roaming animals, locally-grown greens—the call of the small farm is sweet like fresh-cut hay. But high land costs and uncertain profits might keep those longing to pick up a pitchfork stuck in the office. Chances are, they won’t find any angel investors willing to fund a new farmer.

But they might find angel landowners through an Oregon nonprofit service called iFarm. Nellie McAdams, iFarm program director, said that the goal of iFarm is to connect farmers, especially beginners, to land. It’s a statewide service but about 60% of people using the site are in the Willamette Valley.

It’s like any property listing site except that it only lists land suitable for farming and ranching. It’s also geared toward creative lease arrangements, like trade or flexible leases that depend on growth. And it offers more in depth information about the landowners and landseekers, including experience and goals.

Nathan Moomaw of Moomaw Family Farm in Molalla
Nathan Moomaw of Moomaw Family Farm in Molalla

“We’ve had over 500 participants since we began in the fall of 2009,” McAdams said. “We’ve had about 30 successful matches at this point.”

To participate, anyone looking to offer land or find land, fills out an application. “We post that information online, except personal or contact information,” said McAdams. “Once you’re up there you are free to contact anyone who’s on our list.”

It’s a free service although users are encouraged to become members of Friends of Family Farmers. iFarm is a program of Friends of Family Farmers, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of farmers and provides online resources from financing to skill sharing.

If you can no longer ignore the call of the land, check out iFarm’s listings at www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org/?page_id=130. McAdams can be contacted for more information at ifarm@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org or (503) 759-FARM.

By Lana Jones

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